Role of the mutualistic fungus in lignin degradation in the fungus-growing termite Macrotermes gilvus (Isoptera; Macrotermitinae)

Hyodo, F.; Inoue, T.; Azuma, J.I.; Tayasu, I.; Abe, T.

Soil Biology and Biochemistry 32(5): 653-658


ISSN/ISBN: 0038-0717
DOI: 10.1016/s0038-0717(99)00192-3
Accession: 003551987

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The role of the mutualistic fungus Termitomyces sp. in the fungus-growing termite, Macrotermes gilvus, was investigated using CP/MAS 13C NMR, and proximate analyses of fungus comb of different ages and degrees of maturation were selected. Lignin degradation took place progressively in the fungus comb. In vitro digestibility of cellulose in old fungus comb, on which the termites feed, was approx. 3-fold higher than that in the fresh part. These results confirm the 'lignin degradation hypothesis' that the role of the mutualistic fungi is to degrade lignin and enhance the digestibility of cellulose for the termites, suggesting the ability of the termite-fungus association to make extremely efficient use of plant material.